A victory for the craft-impaired
I’m not quite sure where she is plugging me into that equation.
But I’m too poor to afford handi-men so I muddle through one disaster-to-the-next.
Anyway, one of my early childhood memories was of my Dad trying to fix a lamp cord to replace a faulty switch. He cut through the cord with his trusty Swiss Army knife while the cord was still plugged into the wall.
He literally blew a chunk out of the knife blade. It vaporized a section the size of a pea with a spectacular flash of blue-white sparks. Cool! Do it again, Father!
That was before Al Gore invented the internet, so we had to make a pilgrimage from Durango, where we lived, to Denver—the nearest outpost of civilization where one could buy a new Swiss Army knife in those days.
Of course, now we have the internet. I don’t recall if I mentioned my latest addiction: surfing Ebay for tobacco pipes. Over 5,000 out there are needing a good home. Actually, that makes me kind of a hero, don’t you think? It’s kind of like taking in stray cats or abandoned children. I’m creating a Pipe Shelter.
Anyway, thank God for Esnipe. I was able to delete most of the bids I placed in a moment of weakness. I did make one good buy I want to tell you about, however, you need some back ground first.
So last month was my birthday. My assistant left a present for me in my car. I found it after she had left for the day. It is by far, the most beautiful, wonderful thing anyone has ever given me. A pair of book ends with a four-masted schooner. The front half of the ship sails out of one end of the book end and the back half sails in. The ship has been bisected by the books. The detail is incredible right down to the rigging. The wood is gorgeous dark reddish-brown, trimmed with bright shiny brass.
It was too wonderful to put on our library shelves. I wanted it near by, where I could enjoy its details. I put it on top of the Craftsman-style end table that sits next to my desk in the library hiding my computer printer.
The table top was already home to the only Nautical accessory I previously owned: a brass sextant.
Back to Ebay, a week ago. Surfing for pipes, careful not to short-circuit my keyboard with drool, I found a seven-day pipe rack. These are designed for serious pipe smokers who “rotate” their pipes daily, ensuring that each one gets it’s optimum minimum of two days rest between smokes. It is circular. The top of this one looks like a ship’s wheel.
Seemed perfect for my table top.
I got it for a little over ten bucks.
When it arrived it was kinda sad looking. The brass fittings that mimic the multiple handles that ring a sailing ship’s wheel were tarnished to the point of being indistinguishable from the color of the wood; which was a ugly, yellowed, faded once-upon-a-time walnut. Still, as they say, the thing had great bones. I was convinced that it was a diamond in the rough.
I took a Dremel tool to the brass. They polished up to an astounding bright-burnished brass, shimmering like a precious metal.
Then I started sanding the wood to get the old finish off. And sanding. And sanding. And sanding. And sanding. And sanding. And sanding.
I tried various power tools with no luck. The thing is a mass of curves and depressions. The base has a smooth oval recess for each pipe’s bowl to rest in. There are holes for the stems. The ship’s wheel as a sexy depression running around it. The base has a grove running parallel to the table. The central stem is a tapering rod.
All of the sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, needed to be done by hand. I made slow and steady progress between hand cramps. I started with corse sandpaper, moved to medium, and finished with fine. I stripped off all the nasty old finish and restored the wood to a buttery-smooth surface. It took two days.
Then I used a combo stain-urethane to finish the job. The can said for best results to coat it once, sand it AGAIN and re-stain. Yeah right. It looks brand new, I’m stopping while I’m ahead.
I’m really, really, really, really proud of myself. It looks wonderful, and we don’t have to go to Denver to replace anything.
Except, maybe, my cramping hand…